Mediatwits #178: How Far Can Content Marketing Go?

    by Jefferson Yen
    November 6, 2015
    Aileen Gallagher, of the Newhouse School at Syracuse, discusses where content marketing fits into journalism courses
    Click on the image for a look at the full series. Original photo by Jeff Djevdet and used here with Creative Commons license.

    Click on the image for a look at the full series. Original photo by Jeff Djevdet on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    All this week we’ve been writing about the boom in content marketing. For those of you who don’t know, content marketing is – as the name would suggest – content, usually articles, purposely created to drive business for a company. As Simon Owens puts it, content marketing has been around for a long time before it was called content marketing. He notes the Michelin Guide was created to encourage early motorists to travel to restaurants and thus drive – pun intended – the sale of tires. But not every brand is seeking to create a cultural institution with their branded content. As Sarah Granger discovered, executives are hoping to shape the conversation around their company and personal brands by becoming “thought leaders.

    "I think the academy would collapse if there was a joint journalism/advertising class." - Aileen Gallagher on whether journalism schools should integrate content marketing into the curriculum

    This is also creating an alternative pathway for young J-school graduates who can don’t want to work in PR. So why are #Brands getting into the content game? And what about the problems of branded content appearing as editorial? What are the ethical considerations? We’ll break down the ins and outs of content marketing with guests Aileen Gallagher, at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School; Sarah Granger, author of The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life — Online and Off; Simon Owens, tech and media journalist; and regular guest Andrew Lih at American University.


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    Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is an award-winning writer and accidental entrepreneur, who has taken MediaShift from a one-person blog to a growing media company with events such as Collab/Space workshops and weekend hackathons; the weekly “Mediatwits” podcast; and digital trainings, DigitalEd, in partnership with top journalism schools. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

    Andrew Lih is a new media journalist and associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication. He is the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution” (Hyperion 2009, Aurum UK 2009) and is a noted expert on online collaboration and journalism. He is a veteran of AT&T Bell Laboratories and in 1994 created the first online city guide for New York City (www.ny.com). Follow him on Twitter @fuzheado.


    Aileen Gallagher teaches magazine journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. She was previously a senior editor at NYMag.com and has written for New York​, Vulture, Slate and other publications in print and online.

    Sarah Granger is an award-winning digital media innovator and author of The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life — Online and Off.

    Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter.


    As we’ve previously discussed, the rise of social media platforms and ad blockers has companies looking for another tool to reach consumers. But as ad content creeps closer to editorial content there are risks involved. Take for instance the L.A. Times. They recently published an investigative series with Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism on Exxon’s climate change research. At the same time, their business arm is producing a pro-oil campaign for California Resources Corporation, an oil and natural gas company.

    You’ve undoubtedly seen an example of branded content even if you weren’t aware of it. According to the Content Marketing Institute, up to 77 percent of companies have engaged in some form of content marketing. They appear as sponsored posts on The Atlantic, YouTube videos “Presented by Buzzfeed & Supergirl on CBS”, or GE’s new science fiction podcast. Chances are we’re going to see a lot more of it too. According to research firm eMarkerter, $5.7 billion is expected to be spent on content marketing in 2016.

    Will the content marketing boom continue for years or will it hit a ceiling? How should journalists tread into content marketing? What standards should be set around labeling content marketing vs. editorial?

    Jefferson Yen is the producer for the Mediatwits Podcast. His work has been on KPCC Southern California Public Radio and KRTS Marfa Public Radio. You can follow him @jeffersontyen.

    Tagged: advertising content content marketing freelance journalism freelance writers ghost blogging ghostwriters journalism journalism education native advertising publishing

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